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The Epistle for the Eighteenth Sunday after
1 Cor. i. 4-8. I thank
my God always on your behalf, for the Grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ, &c.
HE Collect for this Day teaches us to befeech God for Grace to withstand the Temptations of the
World, the Flesh, and the Devil ; and with pure Hearts and Minds to follow him, the only true God.
Suitable hereunto, the Epistle for this Day contains St. Paul's Thanksgiving unto God, for giving this Grace unto the Corinthians, together with the many blessed Fruits and Effects that proceeded from it: I thank my God always on your behalf, &c. Where we may observe,
First, The great Duty of Thankfulness; I thank my God.
Secondly, The Time when this Duty is to be perform’d; and that is always.
Thirdly, The Persons for whom this is here done; and that is, for the Corinthians: I thank my God always on your behalf
Fourthly, The subject Matter of his Thanksgiving; and that is, for the Grace of God given unto them by Jesus Chrift. And,
Lastly, The blessed Fruits and Effects of this Divine Grace, in the following part of this Epiftle. Of each of thefe particularly. And,
First, I muft begin this Discourse, as St. Paul here does this Epistle, with the great Duty of Thankfulness; I thank miy
God. There being no better way to derive the Blessings of Heaven upon us, than by the Channel of a thankful Heart, and nothing more stops the Current of future Fatours, 'than Unthankfulness for former, Now Thankfulness
in general consists in a due Sense and Valuation of Benefits, join'd with humble Acknowledgments of theni, and hearty Desires and Endeavours of Requital. This is the Nature of this Vertue: Where I stile it,
(1.) A due Sense and Valuation of Benefits. 'Tis great Ingratitude not to be fenfible of Favours, nor to renienber or regard them as we ought: and therefore we find the Pfalmift often blaning the Israelites, for not keeping God's Mercies in remembrance ;. They regarded not the Works of the Lord (faith he) neither consider'd they the Operation of his Hand, Pfal. 28. 5. Yeas of the Rock that begat them they were unmindful, and forgat the God that formid them, Deut. 32.4 18. This made him often to call
his Soul, saying, Bless the Lord, O my Soul, and forget not all his Benefits; Pfal. 103. 1, 2. "He resolv'd to rub up his Memory, saying, I will remember thy Wonders of old, and will meditate on all thy Works; for thou haft been gracions into meg and thy Mercy is over all thy Works. Pfal. 143. 5.
And as Gratitude requires the remembring and recollecting of Benefits, so does it the high esteeming and valuing of them too: For we measure our Thankfulness not so much by the Worth of the things, as by the Efteem we have of them. He that undervalues a Benefit;, his Gratitude will be but small, if any; but he that sets a high Price and Va: lue upon it, his Heart will be fill'd with Thankfulness : and therefore we find David often extolling and magnifying the Works of the Lord, The Mercies of the Lord are great (faith he) fought out of all that have pleasure therein ; Pfal.
13 III. 2. And elsewhere, His Mercy is great unto the Heavens, and his Faithfulness reacheth unto the Clouds. And indeed he that considers the undeferved Freeness of God's Bounty, and his own Unworthiness of the least of his Mercies, will be still magnifying of God's Goodness; and raise his. Thankfulness accordingly.
(2.) Istile it a due Sense and Valuation of Benefits, join'd with humble and frequent Acknowledgments of them. 'Tis a known piece of Gratitude, to own and publish what we have receiv'd; and indeed where the Heart is truly sensible of a Kindness, there the Tongue will not be filent. Thus we find David, that great Example of Thanksgiving, often acknowledging the Loving-kindness of the Lord; saying, I will fing of the Mercies of the Lord for ever, with my Mouth will I make known bis Faithfulness to all Generations Pfal. 89. 1. I will publish with the Voice of Thanksgiving, and
Speak of all thy wondrous Works; Psal. 26. 7. I have not hid thy Righteousness within my Heart, my Talk bath been of thy Salvation; Plal. 40. 10.
Pfal.40. 10. These Calves of the Lips are more acceptable unto God, than all the Calves in the Stall; neither doth he call so much for the Fruit of our Land, as the Fruit of our Lips, in these Acknowledgments
. (3.) To such hunible Acknowledgments we are to add hearty Desires and Endeavours of Requital; which is the
3 just Tribute we owe to our great Benefactor. Hence we find David the devout Thanksgiver frequently asking, What Mall I render unto the Lord for all bis Benefits? He knew foniething was to be render'd to him, but knew not what was able to make any Compensation to the Donor, or anfwer the many and great Obligations of the Receiver. And indeed we can make no Returns suitable to the Number and Greatness of God's Mercies ; for our Righteousness extendeth not unto him, neither is he the better for all our Sacrifices. And therefore the Pfalmift adds, I will take the Cup of Salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord : I will pay my Vows unto him, and praise him with joyful Lips. This he hath promis’d to accept as the best Requital we can make, which therefore we should not fail to return to him,
This is the Vertue of Thankfulness, here taught us in these words, I thank my God.
But, Secondly, when is this Duty to be perform'd? Why that, our Apoltle tells us, must be always ; I thank my God always.
Which cannot be understood of a continual unintermitted Course of Thanksgiving ; for then we must do nothing else, which would be both unreasonable and un. practicable: but of such a Perseverance in the Duty, as is agreeable with the Nature of the thing, and the Poflibili. ty of doing it. And fo the Phrase implies,
1st, The frequent Performance of the Duty. What is feldom or never done, is in Scripture-Dialect said not to be done at all; and what is often done and repeated, is said to be done always: of both which, many Examples might be given. Every day (faith David, that eminent Example in this kind) will I bless the Lord, and fing Praises unto him for ever and ever. As God renews his Mercies upon us every day, fo are we every day to renew our Thanksgivings; and what is done thus daily, is said to be done always.
zdly, The thanking of God always, may imply the appointing and observing seme certain Seasons and Opportu
nities for the performing of this Duty ; the constant observing whereof, tho it includes not every Minute of Time, may and usually is term'd the doing it always.
But this Phrafe here chiefly implies a constant Readiness and Preparation for this Duty: he that is habitually dispos'd to give Thanks, and willingly enbraces all fit Opportunities of expressing it, is in the Scripture-Sense said to do it always. So we are bid to pray continually, and to pray without ceasing; which does not require us to be always upon our knees, offering up our Prayers, but to be still in a Readinefs and Disposition for it upon every fit Occasion. The good Man is said to be ever merciful, and lendeth, not that he is always actually dispensing of Almis, but that his Mind is ever inclin'd to do it as occasion offereth. In like manner, a grateful Person is faid to give thanks always, because he is always dispos'd to do it upon all fit Opportunities.
But, Thirdly, who are the Persons, for whom we are thus to thank God always? Why, the Apostle's doing this here in the behalf of the Corinthians, shews that we are to do it for others as well as our selves. Yea, the fame Apoftle exhorts, that Prayers and giving of Thanks be made for all Men, 1 Tim. 3. 1, 2. We are not to confine this Ofice to our felves, and only to bless God for the Mercies we receive in our own Person; but we are to enlarge it to others, and thank him for the Blessings bestow'd on theni likewise. So the Apostle did for these Corinthians, and we find him doing the fame in the behalf of the Philippians : and likewise requiring us, as we have opportunity, to do the like for all Men; Gal. 4. 10.
But, Fourthly, for what did the Apostle here thank God in the behalf of the Corinthians ? Why that the next words declare ; 'twas for the Grace of God, which was given to them by Jesus Christ. Where by the Grace of God we are to understand the Gospel of Grace, or the Revelation of thosei; sublime and saving Truths contain'd in it; in which sense it frequently occurs in Holy Scripture. So in the Epistle to Titus, The Grace of God which bringeth Salvation, is said to appear unto all Men, Tit. 2. 11, that is, the Gospel of Grace which bringeth the glad Tidings of Salvation, hath been made manifest both to Jew and Gentile, and Men of all Nations may now see and partake of the Salvation of God. And so Grace here signifies the great Mercy of the Gospel
preach'd unto them, which is a Mercy worthy of the greatest Thanksgivings, for by it they were brought out of the Darkness of Paganism, and led into the marvellous Light of Christianity : and they who before fate in the Re gions of the Shadow of Death, were by this means tranflated into the Land of everlasting Life ; for which reason, Life and Immortality are said to be brought to light by the Gospel. And this Grace is here said to be given to them by Jesus Chrift: for he first preach'd this Gospel unto them, and enlightend their minds with the Knowledg of these div. ze and heavenly Truths ; upon which account he is ftiled, T.e-true Light that lighteneth every one that cometh into the World. He who lay in the Bofom of the Father, was alone able, and accordingly hath reveal'd the whole Mind and Will of God to us; shewing in the Gospel the Way to Happiness, and discovering to all Mankind the Means of their Salvation. Christ was the first Purchaser, and likewise the first Revealer of the Kingdom of Heaven, and 'tis he alone that hath discover'd the way that leads to it; so that the Light of the Gospel is intirely his Gift, and is indeed such an invaluable Blessing, as well deserves the loudest Praises and Thanksgivings. And therefore well might the Apostle here thank God for this Grace and Fayour bestow'd on these Corinthians ; especially considering the many and great Benefits they receiv'd thereby, of which he gives fome account in the following Verses. As,
(1.) That in every thing they were enrich'd by him: meaning, that in all things pertaining unto Christ they were plentifully furnish'd, and wanted no means to attain unto them.” He particularly instances first in their being enrich'd in all Utterance, which refers to that miraculous Gift of Tongues, which was granted to some of them, for the Benefit and Instruction of the rest. By this they learnt the Christian Religion themselves, and were able also to teach and propagate it unto others; having thereby such a wonderful Variety and Fluency of Language, as enabled them to discover to all Men the wonderful Works of God. This the Apostle calls here their being enrich'd, and elsewhere their abounding in all Utterance ; 2 Cor.8.7:
Next, he tells us, they were enrich'd and abounded in all Knowledg ; that is, in the Knowledg of all the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. They had the understanding of Prophecies, and the discerning of Christ in them, which was one of the richest and most exalted parts of Know